High School Programs

2017 Summer Fellowship Program in Biomedical Research

June 26 – August 18, 2017


In keeping with its goal to promote science education and encourage young people to consider careers in science, The Wistar Institute is again offering an eight-week summer program for high school students. This program gives preference to students enrolled in the Philadelphia School District.   The Institute does not offer housing, and students who cannot commute daily to the Institute are not eligible.   

Started in 1994, Wistar’s Summer Fellowship Program offers students the opportunity to become directly involved in experimental biological research projects at the bench level.  During the course of the summer, students learn various research techniques and work on active research projects in areas such as cancer genetics, control of tumor progression, vaccine development or bioinformatics.  One recent student fellow described her experience as “Our classroom science in action.”  Other student comments illustrate the value of their fellowship experience: 

            “I cannot even begin to explain how much I learned this summer. I feel like a Ph.D. myself at this point. Academically, this program was exceptional. It is a great hands-on learning experience that teaches something a textbook could only begin to get across to a person. The program was also great in that it made me feel as if I was making a difference in the world and in somebody’s life.”

                                                --S.P, Philadelphia High School for Girls, Summer 1998

            "This has been the most productive and well-spent summer; getting a taste of the research environment and working side by side with an experienced researcher."

                                                --E.J., Northeast High School, Summer 2007

            “This program was extremely useful to me in exposing me to what working in the lab is like.  I was given real responsibilities and experiments to perform that were important and made me feel like an actual scientist.”

                                                 --B.L., George Washington High School, Summer 2005

            “This internship has helped transform my juvenile fascination for science into a deep respect for scientific research and also transformed an enthusiastic high school student into a ‘young scientist.’”                                                                                    

                                                 --M.A., George Washington Carver High Shool for Engineering & Science, Summer 2011

This experience has increased my love of science and medicine…..I would definitely consider research (biomedical) in the future along with my goal to become a doctor.”

                                                --S.K., Girard Academic Music Program, Summer 2014

“Educating the younger generations about the significance of biomedical research and surprises it beholds will lead to more intelligent researchers in the future”

                                                --K.L., Central High School, Summer 2015

“The training program opened my eyes to the almost unlimited amount of ways biomedical research can solve problems facing us today and ones that have yet to be recognized.  Hearing about multiple theories and treatments during lunch presentations made me realize that creativity and science together can change the world.”


                                                --J.C., Science Leadership Academy, Summer 2016

Program Description

Wistar’s Summer Fellowship Program in Biomedical Research provides an opportunity for students to enhance their understanding of current biological/biomedical theory and research tools and techniques at a nationally recognized nonprofit research institution.  Wistar scientists and their laboratory teams serve as program mentors guiding students through the planning and practice of daily research experiments and activities.  Students learn research skills together, taught by a team of mentors, and individually as each student trains in a principal investigator’s laboratory for the duration of the program; under the direction of the laboratory head, the student is assigned a unique research project related to the research goals of that particular laboratory.  Students are integrated into the daily work of the laboratory, participating in laboratory meetings and gaining exposure to different facets of the laboratory's research.  Mentors help students apply their current knowledge and skills and assist them in making the connection between laboratory experience and their academic studies.  The program includes a weekly lunchtime seminar series presented by Institute scientists and an introduction to research library skills development.

At the end of the summer, students are required to give an oral presentation, with slides (prepared in PowerPoint), as well as prepare a final written report describing their research project, techniques and processes learned, and how the experience was useful to the student both academically and personally.  The students meet periodically with their mentors to prepare and review the content of the oral presentations and written reports.

2017 Program Schedule and Stipend

The 2017 program is scheduled for June 26 – August 18, 2017; students are expected to devote 35 hours a week to the program.  Although the schedule is flexible, students are required to complete the eight-week program and to participate in all program activities.  Students will receive a single stipend not to exceed $1,250 for the full eight weeks to defray commuting or other expenses they are expected to incur

Eligibility Requirements

Students must be at least sixteen years of age and enrolled in a science course. To ensure that the program is maximally beneficial both to participants and The Wistar Institute, we are seeking highly motivated students who are enrolled in an academic curriculum and demonstrate interest in science-related fields of study. The students must be able to participate and be present every week of the 8-week program, which includes 5 days of mandatory training in the training lab - no exceptions.  Previous fellowship recipients and students who cannot complete the eight-week program are not eligible. 


In the course of their research, scientists at The Wistar Institute routinely use equipment and biological and chemical substances that may pose certain risks to human health and safety.  The Institute has designed the summer research program for high school students to comply with applicable federal and state regulations for the use of such equipment and substances by minors.  However, because it is impossible to eliminate all of the risks inherent in biomedical research, parents of participating students will be required to sign a permission form which outlines the Institute's research activities and provides consent for their children's participation in these activities.

To Apply

Interested students should submit a one-page letter describing their research interest and career goals.  The letter should also include a phone number/email address where the student can be contacted.  A letter of recommendation from a science teacher and a transcript should also be submitted.  The deadline for submission is March 31, 2017.  This material should be sent to: 

Dr. William Wunner, Director, High School Training Program
The Wistar Institute, 3601 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA  19104

The selection process will include an interview of qualified candidates.


Questions regarding this program can be directed to:

Maria Colelli, Coordinator of The Wistar Institute High School Programs, at (215) 898-3774 or colelli@wistar.org.

About The Wistar Institute

The Wistar Institute is an independent nonprofit research institution dedicated to discovering the causes and cures for major diseases, including cancer, AIDS, and autoimmune diseases.  The Institute is a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center focused on basic and translational research—one of the nation’s first to earn this prestigious designation.  Founded in 1892, Wistar was the first independent institution devoted to medical research and training in the nation.  Since the Institute's inception, Wistar scientists have helped to improve world health through the development of vaccines against rabies, rubella, and rotavirus; the identification of genes associated with breast, lung, prostate and other cancers; and the development of monoclonal antibodies and other significant research technologies and tools.  Located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute maintains its status as an independent research institution while enjoying a close relationship with the University as well as the nearby University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.


The Wistar Institute gratefully acknowledges generous support for these high school programs from GlaxoSmithKline and the Gray Charitable Trust.